Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “Antique Technology”

Vintage Technology: The Bone Fone

Move over MP3 players!  The Bone Fone is here!

(Please try to contain yourself.)

Bone Fone #1

This past weekend I was flipping through a vintage magazine (a March 1980 edition of Panarama, which was a magazine all about the TV industry).  When lo!  My eyes fell upon a Bone Fone ad!  (See full advertisement at the bottom of this post.)  I was instantly teleported back to the late 70s when I was a teenager.

Back then, there was no Internet, so we  were forced to read magazines for entertainment and also so we could be told by the cognoscenti what we were supposed to be buying in order to be considered cool.  I could barely afford the magazines themselves, let alone any of the products that the advertisements promised me would make me the coolest kid in the world, so these magazines kept me in a perpetual state of hopeful despair.

Sometime during that era, I saw an ad for the Bone Fone and was instantly fascinated.

This proved once and for all that advertising works.  My teen-aged male eyes were drawn instantly to the picture of the pretty woman in the ad (just as the advertisers knew they would be).  This woman was wearing what appeared to be the world’s most awkward and poorly designed ascot.  Obviously I did not notice the ascot at first.  It took a few minutes for my adolescent brain to realize there was something other than a pretty girl in the ad. But eventually I noticed the Bone Fone.

Intrigued, I read every word of the ad.  The Bone Fone utilized the principal of bone conduction, which is actually a real thing.  I thought, “This may be the greatest invention in the history of mankind!”  This was several decades before the invention of ear buds, so the very notion that you could wear a device that would allow you to hear music when no one around you could was simply astounding!  It was mind boggling.

I wanted a Bone Fone so badly I could taste it.  I bought the story of its invention, as told in the ad, hook line and sinker.  Of course, I also believed those little ads in comic books that said I could buy a pair of X-Ray glasses that really worked.  I was a highly desirable demographic for advertisers peddling cheap, crappy, and borderline fraudulent products to gullible and highly susceptible teen-aged boys (of which I was one).

But … Alas!  The $69.95 price tag (plus $2.50 shipping and handling) put the Bone Fone well out of reach for me.

Time went by.  I eventually forgot about the Bone Fone, though I would occasionally think of it and wonder if it truly worked as advertised.  I read a few message boards about the Bone Fone this weekend and saw mixed reviews.  Some people said they worked just fine.  Some said it was completely worthless.  Now I’m more curious than ever.

A quick look on eBay this weekend showed me that these things have held their value amazingly well.  Prices ranged from $69.95 all the way up to $99.95.  Perhaps I should have invested in them way back when I could have gotten in on the ground floor.

Unfortunately, I still can’t afford one.  Some things never change.


Bone Fone #20






Still Not Sure What Year This Is …


You may remember a post of mine in which I was shaking my head at the fact that Polaroid cameras were becoming a fad and that one could buy brand-new cameras from Polaroid and also Fuji.

Well, today I was at a flea market (yes, I know … not a traditional activity for Easter Sunday) and I was at a booth that was selling miscellaneous rubbish treasures from yesteryear, when suddenly there appeared a 20-something hipster and his hipster girlfriend who were oohing and aahing over a couple of original Polaroid cameras that had seen better days (days that were several decades in the past).

You would have thought that they had found an original Holy Grail in good to very good condition and in the original box.

The huckster proprietor shared their enthusiasm (though for perhaps different reasons) and was telling them which of the models they could buy brand-new film for and which models they had to go online and buy original, antique film for.  I found myself wondering exactly what sort of condition the film would be in that had been manufactured almost 50 years ago.

Anyway, one just never knows what fad is going to catch fire next.  I sure hope boxes of old computer cables, speakers, keyboards, mice, 5.25 inch floppy disks, and mouse pads become a big fad.  If they do, I can clean out my attic and finally retire.

This Is Progress?


So I was at Fry’s Electronics over the weekend picking up a few things for my latest foray into Nerdville.  My 20-something year old daughter was with me, but to save her the boredom of looking at nerd toys and the embarrassment of being seen with her dad, I said she could go look at other things while I browsed in “my” department.  We met back up after about 15 minutes and to my great surprise, she said she wanted to show me something.  I was taken aback at her enthusiasm.  I didn’t think Fry’s carried anything that would be remotely interesting to her.

She walked me across the store to the consumer electronic section and showed me with great excitement . . . . (dramatic pause) . . .. Polaroid instant print cameras.


I felt like the meme above.  What year is this?  Not only have all of the CDs been replaced with vinyl albums, but now Polaroid cameras are actually popular with the youth.

I said, “Why do you need one of these?”

“It’ll just be fun to have a camera I can use with  my friends.”

I thought for a moment that I must be going insane.  These words came from the girl that exchanges literally thousands of pictures a year with her friends via Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook.

“You have a camera,” I said.  “It’s in your phone.”

“But this one [meaning the Polaroid] is just better.”

“Your phone takes pictures that are literally thousands of times better than that Polaroid.”

“Well, it’s just fun.  I’d really like to have one.”

I gazed at the garish monstrosity from yesteryear (redesigned to be sleeker and more colorful and more expensive).


I did some quick math.  At roughly $75 for the camera, and $25 for one box of film that takes eight pictures, you’re looking at $100 dollars to take eight low-resolution pictures that smell like a toxic waste dump.  I told her that each of those pictures would cost her $12.50 each.

But she would not be dissuaded.  She had already entered the Irrational Zone.  I just shook my head.

What year is this, indeed!


Warning: Graphic Content


I have a confession to make.

I am a graph paper junkie.  All of my adult life I have had a bizarre attraction to it and a fascination with it.  I get unnaturally excited when I see it in stores.  I often will buy it even though I have a drawer full of it in my home office.  I don’t care much for loose-leaf graph paper, but if I see a tablet or notebook or journal or any type of bound graph paper, it takes every bit of willpower that I have to not buy it.  And, frankly, I don’t have that much willpower.  Thus, the drawer full of graph paper.

You may be wondering how much graph paper I use on a weekly basis.  Well, on an average basis, I use approximately zero pages a week (give or take).

Then why this unhealthy obsession with graph paper, you may ask.  I’m not sure.

I remember using it in college when I was studying electrical engineering, but even then I don’t think it had a particular hold on me.

The only explanation I can come up with is that when I graduated from college and got my first engineering job, one of the grizzled old engineers who was my mentor showed me a magic trick.  He gave me a blue-lined pad of B-sized (11″ x 17″) graph paper and a mechanical pencil with blue lead in it.  Blue lead!  I was absolutely blown away.  Since I was a poor boy from Mississippi, he might as well have handed a monkey a pocket watch.  I turned it over and over in my hand, fascinated, but somewhat clueless.  He had me draw out a simple schematic with the blue pencil.  Then he had me go over some of the circuit with black pencil, tracing over some of the blue lines I’d just drawn, but leaving some of the blue lines intact.

We then went into the copier room and he ran the page I’d just drawn on through the copier.  When the copy came out I was blown away to see that it had copied only the black lines.  The blue grid of the graph paper did not show up, nor did any of the blue lines I’d drawn.  Only the things I’d drawn in black were on the copy.  This was the greatest magic trick I’d ever seen!

After that, I designed my circuits exclusively on blue-lined graph paper with a blue-leaded pencil.  Then I’d trace over the bits I wanted to keep with a black pencil.

Ever since then, I have had my addiction to graph paper.   With the advent of computer aided design, I have virtually no use for graph paper any more.  I rarely make photocopies of any kind.  Whatever I do, I do in the computer.  But my addiction to graph paper remains.

Do any of you have any unusual addictions like this that you can’t explain or help?

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